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A Better Tomorrow (2010)

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  •  
    Mark Tolch
    Senior Member

  • A Better Tomorrow (2010)



    Released By:
    Well Go USA
    Released On: 11/08/2011
    Director: Hae-sung Song
    Cast: Jin-mo Ju, Seung-heon Song, Kang-woo Kim, Han Sun Jo
    Purchase From Amazon


    The Film:


    When Korean Director Hae-Sung Song took on the remake of John Woo's 1986 film, A Better Tomorrow, he decided to place more emphasis on drama than action to avoid too much criticism from fans of the first film. A completely valid concern; Woo's now classic movie became the benchmark for Asian action films, and elevated the two-fisted shootout to a ballet-like art form. Hae-sung's other idea to make his film more unique was to set it in Korea and inject it with a heavy dose of local politics, something that Woo didn't bother too much with. And in this regard, he has succeeded in wavering slightly from the original film. But how much originality can one expect in a remake?

    The same basic premise can be found in both films; two brothers following very different paths find themselves at odds in a very dangerous situation. Kim Hyeok and his friend Lee Yong Choon have become heavy hitters in the South Korean arms trade since Hyuk defected from North Korea, leaving his mother and brother Kim Cheol behind. When Hyuk is set up by the up-and-coming Tae Min and captured by Thai police, Lee Yong Choon avenges him by assassinating a rival gang boss, catching a bullet in the leg in the process. Hyeok is released from jail three years later to find Tae Min running the weapons trade in South Korea and his good friend Choon washing cars as a result of his lead-induced disability. To add insult to injury, his brother Cheol is now a police officer working on busting up organized crime, and he doesn't believe that Hyeok is trying to stay clean of the gang lifestyle.

    To be fair, this newer version of A Better Tomorrow is not a bad film on its own. It has some competent direction, some intense drama, some nifty gun battles, and solid acting. The problem is that this film is not going to be judged on its own. Aside from the plot being lifted from an amazing film that never needed to be remade, it's missing a number of key components that made the first movie the classic that it is. First off, Hae-sung may be a competent director, but he is no John Woo. And despite the fact that Woo is an Executive Producer on the film, the direction is nowhere even close to the same ballpark as what it was on the first A Better Tomorrow. Taking the focus off of action and putting it on character development and drama is a fine idea, but that brings me to the second point; characters. The acting in this newest movie is just fine, but again, doesn't touch the original cast, especially in the case of Seung-heon Song as Lee Yong Choon. He may wear a trenchcoat and have a lollipop sticking out of his mouth, but he's no Chow-Yun Fat. By utilizing these character props, Hae-sung has set him self up for a huge fall. This is like a remake of Clockwork Orange or Apocalypse Now; you can make all of the subtle changes you want to bring originality to the script, but you won't be able to avoid the comparisons.

    If John Woo had never made A Better Tomorrow, this film would have stood a slightly better chance. But it would still just be a decent film, slightly better than average. As a remake, it hammers home the argument that film fans have been making about rebooted films in general; there's just no point.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Well Go USA
    brings A Better Tomorrow to blu-ray in a 2.35:1 transfer with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 Korean language audio track. The transfer looks fine with no apparent issues, even though some portions of the film feature an overblown contrast and other “artistic” touches. The audio track makes liberal use of the surrounds, with a solid bass response and a well-balanced soundtrack.

    The extras on the disc appear to be plentiful upon initial inspection, but are somewhat lacking. First up are the Character Intro Cast Interviews, a 3-minute look at the four main actors in the film as they briefly describe traits of their characters. The piece is heavily interlaced and contains no real useful information.

    Next up is a Making Of which runs just under four minutes. It features some on-set footage and some brief information on filming in Thailand, but doesn't have time to get in-depth.

    A 2-minute Interview with Hae-sung Song and John Woo has a little more information, with Hae-sung talking about the criticism that he's sure to face from fans of Woo's film, and the skills of the Korean actors that he's working with. Brief snippets of John Woo show that he supports the idea of the remake. The sound of the interviews is sub-par, and again, features next to no userful information.

    Two trailers for the film are also included.

    The Final Word:


    A slightly better than mediocre film that cowers in the shadow of the original masterpiece. The only recommendation I can make is to seek out the 1986 film and revel in its awesomeness.

    Click on the images below for full size Blu-ray screen caps!




















    • Nolando
      #1
      Nolando
      Senior Member
      Nolando commented
      Editing a comment
      Your summary at the end - that this version is motivation to re-watch the original - is about what I figured would be the upswing from this film. Good review yet again, Mark.

    • Mark Tolch
      #2
      Mark Tolch
      Senior Member
      Mark Tolch commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks, Nolando. Like i said, it wasn't really a bad film, but had to shake my head at the pointlessness of it.
    Posting comments is disabled.

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